Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Eight weeks from shore

Baby care - it's a full time job. Actually, it's considerably more than that, given that it's 24/7 and that in civilised countries the working week is generally considered to be 37½ hours. That would make it 4½ full time jobs. And given that the US working week is 1½ civilised working-weeks, that makes six full time jobs between the two of us. Naturally, certain things have had to slide: meals have transitioned into snacks; sleep has transitioned into napping, sanity into borderline psychosis and social life into but a faint and vaguely unconvincing recollection. It is said that one gets used to having less sleep and this is true in the sense that one might get used to having one arm; repetition has a way of making every experience, however good or ill at first glance, mundanely normal after several attempts. It is, however, in the first and final analyses, effing hard work. Insomnia is particularly awful because it has a way of reproportioning the most trivial of issues into a matter of mortal significance; he makes irregular gurgling noises that keep you awake; then he falls silent and you worry that he's stopped breathing. So you get up to check, just in case, because although you are rationally aware that it is highly improbable that he's stopped breathing, you know you'd never forgive yourself if he had, and you had had a chance to revive him, but you didn't.

Luckily the human race has contrived to abide despite this by virtue of making one's own children unbelievably cute. Sometimes I feel my heart will burst I love him so much. He has, just this last week, begun to smile in direct response to external stimuli (rather than simply by chance) and the effect is absurdly charming. I had to this point held fast to the belief that the act of child-rearing amounts to little more than an extended voyage across the restless Ocean of Facticity, rashly embarked upon from the port of Angst after one too many rum and cokes with Captain Bad Faith in the salon. Actually I still believe this, although in my case I was actually press-ganged by Empress Fortune. As indeed are many others. Well, the sea is a cruel mistress, no need to remind you of that; but, very occasionally, even as one's hammock swings precariously at the crest of another breaker, one drifts away to an alternate vista of shuffleboard besides a glassy sea, perchance followed by a sundowner in a striped deck-chair and thence to fish-fingers and Ferrero Rocher at the Captain's table, whilst below decks a curious metaphysical engine converts all labour into the love by whose propulsion the vessel is magically transported, quite despite itself. Rather over-extended the metaphor there, but you get the drift.

After seven weeks - evidence of a smile! Actully he can do even better, but apparently not with a camera in his face. Understandable.

It would be fair to say that Rachel is having a very hard time of it right now. Psychically beam her all your loving thoughts! Also I feel the need to publicly acknowledge my undying gratitude to my mother-in-law, Linda, without whom I'm sure we'd both have been driven rudely against the rocky shoreline of Bonkersville, NJ long before now. (Turns out there was a bit more mileage in the shipping analogy, after all).

To give you an indication of the rather startling effect all this has on one’s psychology, I need do no more than cite an incident from earlier today. Rachel called me at work to let me know that Linda had volunteered to mind BF tonight and for logistical reasons she would also be staying over in Lake O. Much to my own surprise, my initial reaction was not to plan a night on the tiles, but rather to become somewhat teary with the notion that I would be denied the pleasure of the little fella's company çe soir. My second reaction was a rather whimsical plan to paint the town red. My third reaction was to reflect that I was perhaps rather tired and maybe an early night was not such a bad idea. My fourth reaction was apparently to pen this blog over a couple of hastily constructed quesadillas and a glass of bourbon.

My own mother remarked the other day that it is only when you have your own children that you realise what you mean to your parents. It's rather a humbling thought.

There you go, Simon - baby and proud father. I am particularly proud of the expression of effortless dignity he has assumed here despite being forced to wear his cousin's hand-me-down floral yellow onesy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Papa's got a brand new bike

Once per year, all ten of the city's bridges over the Williamette are temporarily closed to automotive traffic for the annual Portland bridge pedal. And although it wasn't easy to lever myself out of bed at 6am last Sunday in order to join the 25 000 or so cyclists en route, it certainly paid off in the end; the morning clear and cool. I teamed up with Leon and Linda for what we thought was the 8-bridge route, but due to poor signage ended up doing the full ten, around 36 miles start to finish. The view from both of highway bridges downtown was breathtaking; not something one normally has the opportunity to fully appreciate whilst negotiating four lanes of traffic at 50mph in the Mazda. Ditto the cruise down the far sides where I easily reached 30mph without pedalling on my new Trek Portland. Yes, a brand new bike; road-style with disc brakes and sufficient clearance for mudguards in the wintertime, skinny slicks, carbon forks etc but of course it was the "burned orange" paint-job which closed the deal. In the future, all transport will be ginger. I am simply leading the way.

Check It Out. With go-faster ginger chromatics.

Here I am amid the in-laws, the fair city behind me.

And here's the full view north-west from the Marquam Bridge that morning. The Hawthorne bridge that forms part of my ordinary commute is the that one on the right.

Before I forget, I think I forgot to mention that I experienced my first earthquake the other week. It was only a tiddly 3.8er about 20 miles away, but it was enough to wake and wobble me a little, though not quite enough to be genuinely unnerving. As if volcanoes weren't enough, I'm told a "big one" could strike the fair City of Roses pretty much anytime. And no, we don't have earthquake insurance.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Lads Night Out

After Rachel went to bed last Saturday, Ethan and I took the opportunity to go on a bender and soon found ourselves at (fellow ex-pat) Bob's BBQ. Turns out the boy is something of a lady-killer. By applying little more than his usual nonchalent charm, he was universally declared the best baby ever. Not news to me, of course, but it's always nice to have independent confirmation. Also nice to get out of the house every now and again. That said, we've become a little more liberated lately as it turns out that there are few places Ethan prefers to be than strapped to my chest and mosied gently around town. Well, I say around town, but really I mean as far as Hollywood Video and back.

It's been quite a while since seen quite so many films in such a short period of time. I have to say, they really don't make them like they used to.

I have also been wondering at what age the age-restrictions start taking effect. I think it fairly safe to say that he has been untroubled by the slew of R-rated pulp nonsense that has been inflicted on his tender mind thus far, but I suppose there has to come a point where it's out with Bruce Willis and in with Buzz Lightyear. In the meantime we've watched all these films so you don't have to. The rating system is 1-5 oz of bottled formula.

Both Transporter films - mindless action movies don't get any slicker than this. Surprisingly watchable and almost instantaneuosly forgettable. 4oz. Ultraviolet - it looks really good. And that is absolutely the only positive thing I have to say about it. 1oz. Aeon Flux - much like the preceding (ex-supermodel plays an acrobatic assassin in futuristic dystopia); plus two ounces by virtue of having some sense of narrative; minus one ounce by virtue of co-starring Johnny Lee Miller. 2oz. Why We Fight - thought-provoking documentary on the US miltitary-industrial complex. Like every other American documentary of the last few years it seems to lack thrust and closure, but worth seeing nonetheless. 4oz. The High Cost of Low Price - slightly less thought provoking documentary on Walmart's business practices, with the same faults as the former. 3oz. Natural City - Korean sci-fi, full of interesting blade-runner-esque ideas but the characters were rather unconvincing. 3oz. I wonder if I'll ever find another Korean film as good as Oldboy? Ethan would definitely have voted that 5oz, if only he could have seen it from Rachel's womb. Lastly, 16 Blocks is a surprisingly gripping shlock thriller wherein the aforementioned Willis plays a burned-out cop determined to protect a witness to internal police corruption against the best attempts of his colleagues; only marred by the fact that I had to turn on the subtitles to understand anything that co-star Mos Def said. 4oz.

Almost the much requested photo of father and son, only cropped.

More entertaining than any film with Johnny Lee Miller.